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NBA Week at a Glance: Wizards have soft schedule coming out of the All-Star break

NBA Week at a Glance: Wizards have soft schedule coming out of the All-Star break

The NBA returns to action with six games on Thursday after a week off for the All-Star break. 

This year’s rest period was one of the most cumulatively entertaining in recent memory -- dunk contest for the books, entertaining 3-pt contest, competitive All-Star game -- but let’s admit it, we’re all ready to watch real games again.

The Wizards don’t resume their season until Friday, but a soft schedule this week will give them a chance to pick up where they left off before the break. On the national stage, there are other big games to have on your radar. Here’s what we’re looking forward to this week.

Wizards (20-33)

Standings: 9th in Eastern Conference (3.0 GB Orlando Magic)

Schedule

  • Friday vs. Cavaliers (14-40), 7 ET on NBC Sports Washington

  • Sunday at Bulls (19-36), 7 ET on NBC Sports Washington

The Wizards entered the All-Star break as one of the Eastern Conference’s hottest teams, winning six of their last 10 games and five of the last seven. Currently riding a two-game win streak, the Wizards return to the hardwood against a Cleveland Cavaliers team in its first game since parting with head coach John Beilein.

There may be questions about whether the break was bad for the Wizards' momentum, but that shouldn’t hold as a legitimate excuse if they lose this game. Cleveland has the worst record in the East and second-worst in the entire NBA. And even though the Cavs defeated the Wizards by 13 on Nov. 8, the Wizards kicked off their current 10-game run with a win over the Cavs. These teams are trending in separate directions, and the Wizards should be able to continue their push into the playoff picture. Bradley Beal, who is in the midst of a career-high streak of 12 straight games of at least 25 points, scored 36 in the Jan. 23 win over Cleveland.

The Wizards finish the week on Sunday against a Bulls team they also beat during their current hot streak. It was Washington's second-to-last game before the break, in fact. Washington was 0-2 this season against Chicago before a 12-point victory on Feb. 11. This won’t be an easy game for the Wizards, though, as their previous two losses to the Bulls indicate. Chicago is 10th in the standings -- two games behind the Wizards -- and will be desperate to make up ground. Zach LaVine has averaged over 30 points against the Wizards this season, including a season-high 41 in the loss. The Wizards will need to contain him to have a shot at evening the season series.

NBA

Thursday: Nets at 76ers, 8 p.m. on TNT

The Brooklyn Nets are also one of the league’s hottest teams, going 7-3 in their last 10, including 4-1 since losing Kyrie Irving to a knee injury in a loss to the Wizards. Irving’s knee is feeling better but now a shoulder injury that kept him out earlier in the season is bothering him again, and he’ll be missing more time. We’ll get a chance to see if the Nets can continue winning without Irving on Thursday when they take on the 76ers in Philadelphia. This game also gives us a chance to see if the inconsistent 76ers can build on the three-game winning streak they took into the All-Star break.

Friday: Pelicans at Trail Blazers, 10:30 p.m. on ESPN

Rookie Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans travel to Portland to face Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers. Though he cooled off slightly just before the break, Lillard has been one of the hottest players in basketball since the new year. Like the Wizards, the Trail Blazers are in 9th place in their conference, and not only are they trying to make up ground on the eighth-place Grizzlies, they’re also trying to hold off a slew of teams behind them including the Pelicans (1.5 GB). Williamson is also in the middle of an awesome stretch, averaging 22 points in his first 10 career games before going into the All-Star break. He notched over 30 in each of his last two contests.

Saturday: 76ers at Bucks, 8:30 p.m. on ABC

The Milwaukee Bucks are the best team in the NBA at 46-8 and not many teams have been able to figure them out, but the 76ers are one of the eight teams that have. Milwaukee hasn’t lost consecutive games all season or to the same team more than once, however, so expect it to come out with some fire after losing to the Pacers just before the break. Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is expected to return after missing the last two games following the birth of his first child. As previously mentioned, the 76ers are seemingly on the right track again but their last loss before the current winning streak was to the Bucks, when Greek Freak put up 36 points and 20 rebounds. When Philly beat Milwaukee in December, Antetokounmpo was limited to just 18 points and everyone in Philadelphia's starting five scored in double figures, led by Joel Embiid’s 31.

Sunday: Celtics at Lakers, 3:30 p.m. on ABC

The Boston Celtics have just two losses in their last 13 games, starting an impressive run of W's by drubbing the Lakers by 32 on Jan. 20. That win happened to be Kemba Walker’s first in his career against LeBron James in 29 tries. It also apparently provided the spark Boston needed to reach its full potential. James and Anthony Davis were held to a combined 24 points while three Celtics scored at least 20 points. You have to think the Lakers had this rivalry game circled on their calendar since that loss, as this could be their final chance to avenge their worst loss of the season -- unless, of course, these teams meet in the NBA Finals.

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Wizards take down another contender with win over Raptors in NBA 2K simulation

Wizards take down another contender with win over Raptors in NBA 2K simulation

Not only are the Washington Wizards dominating the NBA 2K simulation, but they are also doing it against some tough competition. 

With a 70-61 win over the Toronto Raptors, Washington has now won seven of nine simulations. Other victories have come against the likes of the Bucks, Lakers and 76ers. In the 2K world, the Wizards are consistently beating the best.

In the latest win, the formula remained the same as past simulations. Behind another big night from Rui Hachimura (21 points) and some added scoring from Bradley Beal (12 points), the Wizards offense was able to put up enough to get past Toronto. Timely runs in the second half and some stingy defense left the Raptors with no chance to mount a comeback as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Here are some key takeaways from the Wizards win.

Rui keeps on rolling 

There has been no stopping the Wizards rookie in 2K as of late. With 21 points, he now has back-to-back 20-point performances. The first-round pick of Washington in 2019 has been doing it on both ends of the floor, sparking big plays with blocks and finishing at the rim.

Hachimura also stepped behind the line and showed some range on Tuesday, hitting a smooth-looking three-pointer.

It's been a great 2K run for Hachimura overall as of late, as he also took down Donovan Mitchell in the first round of the 2K Player Tournament.

Strong finish

Though the Wizards played well throughout, it was a dominant stretch toward the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth that sealed the win.

A 16-6 run to close the third coupled with a 16-3 run early in the fourth gave Washington a comfortable lead. After taking a 42-41 lead in the third, the Raptors would never lead again.


Dominant inside, efficient outside

Similar to other simulations, the Wizards once again did a lot of their scoring inside the paint. Washington outscored the Raptors 46-32 in the paint, finishing at the rim in multiple ways consistently. 

Thomas Bryant was once again a beast down low, throwing down dunks and recording a team-high 16 rebounds in addition to 10 points to complete a double-double.

Though the real NBA has become a three-point heavy game, it hasn't quite translated to 2K. The Wizards only attempted eight shots from behind the arc on the night, a number that could sometimes come from just a few possessions in a real game. Even more peculiar, Davis Bertans didn't register a single three-point attempt. 

Yet, the Wizards made the most of the attempts, going 4-from-8 from three. Of course, Bradley Beal was in the mix.

Run for the (simulation) playoffs?

In the 2K universe, the Wizards entered Tuesday just two games behind the Brooklyn Nets for the eighth spot in the East. With a win, the virtual team may have inched even closer to the playoffs. 

Simulation-wise, Washington could not have asked for a better stretch of play.

The 2K Wizards will be back in action Friday at 7 p.m. ET against the Rockets. 

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Wizards' Troy Brown Jr. says it was scary hearing Rudy Gobert contracted coronavirus

Wizards' Troy Brown Jr. says it was scary hearing Rudy Gobert contracted coronavirus

By the time Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus and the NBA subsequently suspended the 2019-20 season, a number of teams who'd played Utah leading up to the suspension had to self-quarantine as a precaution. 

One of them was the Washington Wizards.

They suffered a 10-point loss to the Jazz 12 days before Gobert tested positive, so they urged their players to self-quarantine for several days. Fortunately for the Wizards, no player ended up tested positive for the virus.

Washington's second-year wing joined Chris Miller on the Wizards Talk Podcast and gave a window into what his reaction was to the fact he had played the Jazz leading up to Gobert's positive test. 

"I wasn't touching [Gobert]," Brown said with a laugh. "I didn't go in for no layups or anything like that. But all jokes aside though, it was one of those things that was scary because I didn't know really what to expect coming out of it."

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Heading into the league's suspension, Brown was enjoying a strong season where he showed a lot of improvement from his rookie year. He was averaging 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists on much better shooting splits (45.3% FG, 34.5% 3P in 19-20 vs. 41.5% FG, 31.9% 3P in 18-19). 

Brown seemed to have much more success coming off the bench with a unit in which he had more ball-handling opportunities. We'll see if he can continue to grow when basketball returns, though the 20-year-old is forced to focus on the challenges that come with isolation. 

"It definitely is a lot easier being with my family and being in my own space and being able to make decisions for myself," Brown said. "Being in D.C. was kind of hard because I didn't have anybody else there besides my dog, living by myself in quarantine. I feel like it's those people that are struggling with the quarantine stuff being isolated by themselves because you don't really know what to do."

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